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Safer Online

There are more reasons than ever to think before you post: in addition to cyber-thievery, hacking and identity theft, a growing number of recruiters and employers check social media to assess potential candidates. In a global survey, however, Microsoft found that only a small percentage of respondents said they actively manage their online reputation, such as editing or deleting information, writes Jacqueline Beauchere, Microsoft Chief Online Safety Officer, in a blog post.

With so much of our interactions and activities taking place online, it is imperative to maintain an understanding of your online reputation. But most of us aren’t aware of the tools available to do this. In fact, according to a 2013 Microsoft survey of online safety habits, respondents from around the world reported that they did not use many of the key technical tools that are available to help them manage their online reputations:

19% of respondents edited or deleted info to protect their online reputation.

15% used search engines to monitor and manage their personal info online.

10% used a service to edit or delete information about themselves online.

31% took the time to get the latest info for protecting their reputations online.

Precisely because so many are  lax about monitoring their reputation, the associated problems are widespread: it’s estimated that the worldwide financial and productivity losses in 2013 came in at $1.4 billion, and 16,300 cumulative years required to repair the online damage to personal reputations.

In an effort to educate the public, Microsoft suggests taking charge of your online reputation, by discovering what's on the Internet about you, periodically reevaluating what you find, and taking proactive steps to cultivate an accurate, positive reputation. Of primary importance is keeping sensitive details—all of which could be used to defraud, impersonate, or find you—private, or only sharing very selectively. 

Microsoft also recommends thinking before posting pictures, videos, or comments online, asking yourself if what you’re about to say or share could tarnish your reputation, or be misconstrued. A rule of thumb: don’t post anything you’d only say to or share with a close friend. 

The Internet is a part of our everyday lives, whether we’re connecting with our social circles, applying to a school or a new job, or even looking for a mate. Now more than ever, it’s important to pay attention to what’s online about you and take steps to cultivate a positive persona—both personally and professionally.

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